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Praying for Sheetrock: A Work of Nonfiction Paperback – August 29, 2006


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Praying for Sheetrock: A Work of Nonfiction + The Rational Southerner: Black Mobilization, Republican Growth, and the Partisan Transformation of the American South + The Triumph of Voting Rights in the South
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 2nd printing edition (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306815176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306815171
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Despite what it said in the New York Times or the Congressional Record, not everybody in America got the word right away about the civil rights movement. Thus it was that well into the 1970s, McIntosh County in backwoods Georgia remained a place where the black majority still had never elected one of their own to any county office, where black kids were bused away from the white school, and where the white county sheriff had his hand in every racket there was. Praying for Sheetrock is the saga of how, thanks to the leadership of a black shop-steward-turned-county-commissioner named Thurnell Alston, together with the aid of a cadre of idealistic Legal Services lawyers (Melissa Greene was one of their paralegals) this situation began to change. The story, written as grippingly as a novel, is charged with twists that only nonfiction can deliver; for example, Alston, for all the brave good he did, ultimately got caught in a federal sting and went to jail while the corrupt sheriff walked. This is, writes Greene, a story of "large and important things happening in a very little place." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

As the first black commissioner of McIntosh County, Ga., retired boilermaker Thurnell Alston brought the civil rights struggle to a coastal backwater in the 1970s. He initiated voting rights lawsuits, fought drugs and introduced medical clinics, plumbing and running water to "a forgotten county needy in every way." A threat to corrupt Sheriff Tom Popell, who ruled the county as his fiefdom, Alston challeged the "good old boy" patronage system. But the irascible commissioner became increasingly distanced from his constituency and, after his youngest son's tragic death in 1983, he neglected his wife and children in escapist pursuits. The target of a government sting operation, he was convicted of drug conspiracy charges in 1988 and sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison camp, where he remains. By turns inspiring and sad, his story is told with dramatic skill by Atlanta journalist Greene. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

There is also some very funny stories in this book.
Danny J. Wilson
Parts of this story will make you laugh out loud; others will make you angry; throughout, there is the human struggle for dignity.
B. Studdard
A big thumb's up for me and I can't wait to read more of her books.
Linda S.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By B. Studdard on April 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
As a native Southerner, I can say that Melissa Faye Greene is spot-on in creating her characters. Her descriptions of people, places, scenes, sounds, and smells bring everything to life. I find myself saying again and again, "I've experienced that; I know that person." I gave this book to my teen-ager so she would understand why racial politics are what they are in the South; she's now re-reading it -- on her own -- for the third time. Parts of this story will make you laugh out loud; others will make you angry; throughout, there is the human struggle for dignity. If you want to understand the South of the current generation and the one before it, I recommend this book highly.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Deon S. King on March 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
My mother was born and raised in McIntosh County Georgia. She confirms the truck crash incident along with the Sheriff's drug cartel and other corruptions. She admitted that many blacks in the County looked up to Sheriff Tom Poppel and considered him a good man. I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Upon recommendation by a doctor my mother moved home to McIntosh County. I became a citizen of McIntosh County in 1983 and experienced an extreme culture-shock. The housing was inadequate, education was minimum, employment was scarce, race relations were very much segregated and people still spake Gullah. As a matter of fact in 1983 there was a separate prom for white and black students. It is fatally ironic that Thurnell Alston was caught in a drug sting. The truth of the matter is he became a victim of his own circumstance. I visited him in the hospital before he succumbed to cancer. His sons and I were close friends and I never really understood the significance of who he was until I read the book (Praying for Sheetrock) and consider it to be a well-written book for all to read especially citizens of McIntosh County. However because the lack of education exists many in McIntosh County will not read the book. Unfortunately the more things change the more they remain the same.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on February 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
There are a number of astonishing things about this provocative and evocative history of a remote coastal region of Georgia. Greene's chronicle is not simply an account of the institutional and covert racism that plagued one Southern county. Nor is it merely a biography of an unlikely black leader who led a momentous, peaceful rebellion against the white hierarchy before succumbing (at best) to his own credulity or (at worst) to the very corruption he criticized. Instead, "Praying for Sheetrock" is a composite oral history of a complex, deceptively quiet community during the 1970s and 1980s, where the social norms seemed old-fashioned, even quaint, and where even justifiably disgruntled citizens, both white and black, are restrained equally by an ill-defined sense of fear and by a desire to get along with their neighbors.

At the time of the writing, McIntosh County had been dominated by a corrupt yet efficient, nepotistic yet clever "Old Boy" network, but it was also populated by an impoverished black community that, on the surface, seemed to have been on good terms with the local white authorities all through the chaos of the civil rights struggle. For many years, state and federal authorities suspected that county officials, led by Sheriff Tom Poppell, had been deeply implicated in jury tampering, tax evasion, bribery, illegal gambling, drug-running, prostitution, and even murder. Folks joked that Poppell "was the only sheriff in America who owned four houses, one with an airfield, and all on twelve thousand dollars a year." Yet every attempt by higher authorities (who regularly indicated on their reports that Poppell was to be considered "armed and dangerous") failed to nab the suspects.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Casual Reader on February 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
Having been born and raised in a small community in south Georgia, I have seen first-hand much of what was described in this book. I found this work to be incredibly interesting and moving. Have attitudes evolved and changed for the better in this area? Yes, fortunately. Are there still traces of this? Yes, unfortunately. But with excellent works such as this, we can only hope that the sad attitudes and discrimination that is so accurately described in Ms. Greene's work will become a part of our distant past.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 1997
Format: Paperback
What a wonderful work! Melissa Faye Greene has brought together a passion for scholarship and a mellifluous writing style. Darien, Georgia is hardly the place to begin when one studies the civil rights movement in America -- but Melissa Faye Greene shows us the impact of this revolution in rural America, a story too often neglected in favor of stories of urban desegregation. Beautifully written, Ms. Greene elucidates the struggles of blacks and whites to come to terms with a changing social reality, and cast off decades of de facto dictatorial rule by a white aristocracy. In the process, both white and black come to see that what unites them is greater than what divides them, even though what unites them is not always to their liking
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nicole C on October 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
Once I picked this book up, I could not put it down. The way Greene chose to set up this book and play out the story is excellent. She laid out the characters and the scene in such a way to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions to the facts, giving equal voice to all parties. Though the heroes and villians are obvious, she doesn't portray them in a straight forward way. It opens with a complete and thorough description of everything surrounding the actual story, which gives the reader the feeling that they are there - a part of it - before all is said and done. The research she did on the subject to offer a tale told with all sides is commendable. Equally Fascinating and Intriguing!!
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